Grandparents can be a real boon to raising a toddler, as they have been through it and know the ropes. They are somewhat detached from the anxieties of child rearing and can give both you and your toddler a break from the usual routine. What are some possible outings and activities that grandparents might enjoy with the little one?
Given the challenge of coping with toddlers in standard establishments, it’s better to stick to kid-friendly restaurants. Many places have been specially designed for families with tots. Unfortunately, they often come up short in the nutrition department, but areas for climbing and crawling offer some compensation by offering opportunities to practice their physical skills. Grandparents shouldn’t expect to relax while toddlers entertain themselves, however. Most structures are overly challenging for tots, and if bigger kids are roughhousing, play areas can be outright dangerous. Close monitoring is imperative. If a sign forbids children under a certain height from entering an area, believe it! On the other hand, ignore the signs prohibiting big people from entering if your toddler is in a potentially dangerous situation. Climb on in and stage a rescue!
Trek to the Toy Store
Grandparents are usually known for bringing toys when they come for their visits. A little grandchild spoiling is okay every now and then, but it helps if you can provide guidelines for grandparents to avoid toys that don’t meet with your approval. What can you recommend for the grandparents’ shopping when gift-giving occasions roll around? They might enjoy getting some of the more traditional toys:
The old-fashioned, low-tech “classics,” like teddy bears, rubber balls, baby dolls, and toy cars.
Outdoor toys such as retro classic Big Wheels and Flyer wagons. Choose a wagon that is relatively low and well built, with no sharp edges. The pampered grandchild will be happy for long periods of time, loading the wagon and hauling things around. It is also a way for you to transport her during a neighborhood walk, a change of pace from a stroller.
Old-fashioned blocks. Blocks are a popular standard toy for toddlers. Grandparents may find themselves wanting to join in with block play, as the larger sets are quite appealing. A standard set of sixty shapes (including cones and cylinders) offers infinite possibilities for houses, stores, or whatever your tot’s imagination might dictate. Combine with small cars, and the toddler will be happily occupied for quite some time.
Dollhouse. By three years old, the little one might enjoy a dollhouse, complete with furniture, dishes, linens, and people. These miniature environments provide another opportunity for dramatic play, but on a smaller scale. Toddlers can have many happy moments arranging the pieces, especially when shared with an attentive adult. Many accessories that are a part of miniature environments are too small for toddlers, so don’t be tempted to get into the collectible realm, at least at this age.
Musical instruments. The sky’s the limit in the realm of budding rock stars. The grandparents may want to get a beginner piano, drum set, guitar, or a set of percussion instruments. The main focus for instruments for toddlers would be free exploration and expression with sound. It might be fun to include strange and interesting sounds like animal sounds, train whistles, and other odd things.
Building with blocks develops a foundation for more advanced science comprehension including gravity, stability, weight, and balance. These concepts help the toddler understand the physical world around her. This kind of orientation makes her feel more secure and grounded.
Grandparents may also be handy at making things. Your toddler might want to join in or the grandparent can surprise the little one with some great handmade goodies. Some possibilities might include:
Workbench. The first set of plastic tools will be fun for introducing your toddler to the names and purposes of the tools, but an older toddler can graduate to actual tools and scraps of wood (check the pieces for slivers that could become splinters, and take them off). On a low, sturdy table, set up a workbench play station on the patio or in the basement. Make available several pieces of wood, a small hammer, some sandpaper, and glue. The little carpenter will be happy hammering, even without nails, which could be too tempting to put into the mouth. Woodworking is a marvelous sensory experience, and remember that girls will find it just as appealing as boys. As your toddler matures, gradually add real tools, always staying nearby yourself to demonstrate how they are used and to prevent injury.
Sewing cards. Grandparents can make sewing cards to help your toddler learn eye-hand coordination. Mount a picture with a clear outline onto firm cardboard, perhaps an image from a coloring book. At regular intervals punch holes along the outline of the picture. The child can “sew” along the line with a shoestring or piece of sturdy yarn with a piece of masking tape rolled around the end to make a firm tip. Try the stitching yourself first to see if the holes are large enough.
Homemade musical instruments. Grandparents may remember from their youth such goodies as a tissue paper kazoo, cigar box banjo, and drums made from oatmeal boxes.